How did an engineer become a dyslexia tutor?

As a toddler, Eerik had a flair for design

My son Eerik didn’t play with blocks as a toddler, he designed with blocks.  His creations had a sense of style that stood out, if even just to his Mom.  Mom’s notice things, know things, about their kids that are biased and utterly unscientific yet often dead on right.  Eerik is now studying Industrial Design at Humber College.  Who saw that coming?  Parents, trust your instincts!

At age three Eerik was barely talking

At his annual checkup at age three my number one concern was that he was barely talking and when he did talk I was the only one who understood.  The pediatrician chalked that up as a normal delay for the brother of a talkative older sibling.  He was sure he would catch up. Delayed speech is a warning sign for dyslexia.

At age four he started speech therapy

In prekindergarten at age four it was an experienced (i.e. older) preschool aide, not the teacher with training in preschool education, who let me know that no-one other than me could understand Eerik, maybe I should look into speech therapy.  The speech therapist who he eventually started seeing wondered why we had waited so long to get him help.  His speech therapy continued until we moved from Georgia back to Canada after first grade.  This was great but his speech difficulties were a symptom of his dyslexia which would not be identified for another five years. 

In grade one Mom knew he couldn’t read but he fooled his teacher by passing reading tests (memorization, using picture clues, guessing)

In grade one, I knew Eerik was not reading.  We read three books every night before bed.  His older brother started reading in kindergarten and I knew this was early but I knew what actual reading looked and sounded like.  Eerik was not reading.  I was reading to him which was fine but when I nudged him to take a crack at it he couldn't or it was from memory.  When I brought this up to his first grade teacher I was told “He passes all the tests, not to worry, he is doing great, what a sharp and clever mind he has".  I was told there was nothing wrong, I was just an overly anxious mother.  He passed tests by having memorized a lot of the words, using picture clues or guessing.  If he was asked to read non-words by themselves, something he could not possibly have memorized I know he would not have been able to.  Unfortunately I didn't know then what I know now to be able to demonstrate this to his teacher.  

Middle of grade two, identified as not reading. Still no one suspects dyslexia.

Grade two, back in Canada I told his classroom teacher that he cannot read, what should we do?  She said she would look out for this.  September, October, November go by and we are almost to winter break with no alarm bells ringing from school.  I thought maybe the reading switch had turned on.  It had not.

Before the break the teacher finally let me know that I was right, he is not reading.  Even at this point the word dyslexia was never mentioned.  No-one thought that this child should be tested even though there was a discrepancy between where his actual reading level was and where one would expect it to be based on his good schooling, his eagerness, his being quite bright in all other aspects of school.  I didn’t know to ask.  I know now that teachers do not get adequate instruction in identifying dyslexia. The earlier a child is identified the easier it is to get them reading fluently and not falling behind their peers.

Learns to read in grade 2 by repeated reading of progressively more difficult text, at home with help of resource teacher.

Thankfully the school had a resource teacher who worked with me and Eerik’s grandmother to get him reading.  She picked out four or five books that we had Eerik read every night three or four times.  This got him reading so we thought problem solved.  He could now read.  I didn’t know it was painfully slowly.  This was never measured. His spelling remained terrible.

Grade four, hits the wall when reading to learn, teacher tells mother to lower expectations

Grade three was fairly uneventful but grade four, when children switch from learning to read to reading to learn, Eerik hit a wall.  He struggled.  He managed.  He had an engaging male teacher he liked but who did not prepare him terribly well for grade five.  When I mentioned my concern I was told he would be fine if only I would lower my expectations for him.  “We need caretakers and factory works, not just engineers and architects”. 

We have Eerik assessed privately (didn’t know schools were supposed to do this)

Near the end of grade four, after this exchange with the teacher  I was at my family doctor's for an appointment.  She asked about my kids.  I mentioned that Eerik was OK but that he struggled so hard at school despite everyone thinking he was very bright.  She suggested we get a psycho-educational assessment.  This was the first time I had heard this term. 

We had him assessed privately.  After reviewing his report cards, hearing his academic story and by taking one look at his EQAO writing sample, the psychologist blurted out that of course he is dyslexic, we knew that, right?  It was that obvious to her.  When we looked at her blankly she apologized and said that she had no business saying that, she needed to run the battery of tests…but she was right.  We could have saved all that money spent on testing, googled dyslexia and figured out what to do.  

Gifted & Learning Disabled (dyslexia) – that explains everything

The money was well spent when Dad took Eerik for the second batch of testing and the doctor revealed the results from the first batch of testing.  Eerik had a very high IQ, he was classified as gifted!  The doctor could look Eerik in the eyes and confirm that he was not, as he suspected, retarded.  The poor soul had been living in a brilliant mind but thinking he was stupid.  He knew something was wrong. This was such a relief to him and when the second piece of the puzzle, dyslexia, was revealed everything finally made sense.  His brain was wired to work brilliantly in 3D and to spot the deer in the forest or the missing part on a circuit board but not so well for reading and spelling.

Mom had to become his tutor out of desperation but found her calling

We found out that to get Eerik reading and spelling at his grade level we needed to get him into an Orton-Gillingham type reading and spelling program.  Long story slightly shorter, when we could not find a tutor with openings I became his tutor using the Barton Reading & Spelling System.  I loved tutoring and knew that there must be others with similar stories to his who need help.  I love this work!

Advanced Certification in Newark NJ May 2015

An intense day with Susan Barton and nine fellow tutors with so much to share.  

Tutors came from Alaska, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina...I am still the only certified Barton tutor in Southern Ontario 



First meeting of Decoding Dyslexia October 2015

I'm busted for wearing the same sweater.  Great group and growing.  So much awareness to build, join us!



It is so important to use the word dyslexia.  Click here to read why: http://blog.dyslexicadvantage.org/2015/10/08/5-reasons-to-say-dyslexia/